After WWII, the world was captivated by the threat of communism. The fear of communism within Australia was a major political issue during the Era of the Cold War. As a result, the key developments in Australia’s response to the threat of communism consisted of the Forward Defence Policy, signing significant alliance treaties which subsequently included the SEATO and ANZUS treaties, and actively participating in military conflicts, which included the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War.
However, it can be determined that the Vietnam War was the most controversial and decisive of Australia’s military commitment to counteracting the threat of Communism. The underlying factors which resulted in Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War included the fear of the Domino Theory, the Forward Defence Policy, supporting their loyal ally, the United States, in accordance with the treaties. It is evident that these political and military reasons occurred in order to protect the ideology of Capitalism.
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Capitalism and Communism were the 2 main conflicting ideologies. The 2 major superpowers behind these ideologies were Russia, a supporter of Communism and America, a supporter of Capitalism. It can be determined that the fear of communism would greatly impact the capitalist nations, including Australia. It can be stated the key developments in Australia’s response to the threat of communism included Forward Defence Policy, the SEATO and ANZUS treaties (South East Asia Treaty Organisation and Australia New Zealand United States) taking part in military wars including The Korean War, the Malayan Emergency and The Vietnam War.
The Forward Defence Policy was based on the concept that it was in Australia’s best interest to meet any threats to Australia as far away from the mainland as possible. This policy would see Australia set up military bases overseas and send Australian troops to Korea, Malay and Vietnam. Therefore, Australia’s involvement in The Korean War and The Malayan Emergency was due to the concept of The Forward Defence Policy. “If there was a war for our existence, it should be carried out as far from our soil as possible”.
In June 1950, war broke out in Korea when communist North Korea invaded capitalist South Korea. The UN responded quickly, sending the military of fifteen nations, including Australia to counter-attack. By the time they had all arrived, the majority of South Korea had been overrun by communist forces and the UN military had to slowly fight back up the Korean Peninsula. The war seemed to defend the fear of communism being spread through Asia. Another part of Asia facing communist threat was Malaya.
After WWII, the British re-established their authority in Malaya, but in 1948, a communist association had begun to operate in the Malayan jungles. By 1950 the situation had become known as the Malayan Emergency. An increased number of troops were sent to oppose the communists. In 1955, the Menzies government decided to send ground, air and naval power to assist the British fighting in Malaya. Australian troops remained in Malaya until the communist threat was defeated in 1960.
Prime Minister Robert Menzies was determined to build a more secure position for Australia in the world, “under the US wing”. WWII and the fear of the Japanese invasion of Australia was a turning point in Australian foreign policy. Australia now required an alliance beyond what Britain could provide. Two new alliance agreements were negotiated to establish Australian security. The ANZUS treaty was signed in 1951 by New Zealand, United States and Australia, promising mutual protection, with the intention of preventing communist expansion and increasing US authority in the Pacific Nation.
The parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any one of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific. Article III of the ANZUS Treaty, 1951 Each Party recognizes that aggression by means of armed attack in the Treaty Area against any of the Parties or against any State or territory which the Parties by unanimous agreement may hereafter designate, would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that event act to meet the common danger in accordance its constitutional processes.
Article IV of the SEATO Treaty, 1954
The Domino Theory was also another key development for Australia’s involvement in The Vietnam War. The Domino Belief stated that “if one Asian state fell to communism, then, like falling dominoes, all of Asia would soon fall to communism”. The Domino Theory influenced Australia’s decision to send troops to the Vietnam War in the 1960s. It also seemed to justify everyone’s fear of communism.
“I subscribe to the domino theory…because I believe it is obvious…that is the Vietnam War ends with some compromise that denies South Vietnam a real and protected independence, Laos and Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia will be vulnerable…this domino theory…has formidable reality to Australians who see the boundaries of aggressive communism coming closer and closer.”
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